James Jones' 3-point bonus? Performance-enhancing cadaver

Rare is the NBA All-Star Weekend participant disqualified for the use of performance-enhancing cadavers. So Miami Heat forward James Jones is probably safe on that count when it comes to Saturday's 3-point shooting contest at Staples Center.

But without that outside assistance, it is doubtful Jones could have made it back to NBA relevance, let alone a spot in such a showcase alongside Kevin Durant, Paul Piece and Ray Allen.

To appreciate how far Jones has come in his climb back up the league 3-point charts is to appreciate where the eighth-year veteran stood at the start of the 2008-09 season, when he was uncertain whether he would be robbed of his special gift.

On the eve of his first season with the Heat, James ruptured a tendon in his right wrist. Surgery was scheduled. At the time, the former University of Miami standout said, "Just imagine somebody punching you in your stomach as hard as they can."

Into the breach stepped modern medical science. To that degree, Jones will not be alone at All-Star Saturday, and for more than teammates LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also being in Los Angeles for the All-Star Game that follows a day later.

He'll also being carrying the added benefit, quite literally, of a personal benefactor.

In order to rebuild James' stroke, the team's medical staff essentially had to rebuild Jones' wrist. Not only were his own tendons repaired, but extra tendons were added.

"Because we strengthened my wrist, we changed the way the tendons work, where it wouldn't get to a point where I was fighting my body," he said.

Jones basically not only went in for a tune-up for his shooting wrist, but an overhaul.

"My tendons in my wrist, they repaired 'em, strengthened 'em, tightened them up, and then they wrapped 'em," he said. "So there's more tendon in there."

At that point of his explanation, Jones was asked to pause. A question had to be asked:

Extra tendons?

"When your tendons tear, you cut a section out, put a section in, to repair it," he said in a matter-of-fact manner. "Then they wrap it with extra tendons to make sure."

And where exactly does one get "extra tendons"?

"I guess from the same cadaver I got my other new tendon," he said. "It's not mine. It's human, from someone's hip. So I have tendons wrapped around other tendons, to prevent it from rubbing against the bone, the friction."

No, he does not know the identity of his donor, although it is safe to say a deceased shooting specialist was not exhumed for the process.

The bonus tendons came with a tradeoff: Less friction with the bones in his wrist, but also less flexibility. That meant having to relearn his stroke, a grueling process that now has him 15th in the league in 3-pointers converted, 17th in the NBA in 3-point percentage, and, of course, a half-game out of first place with the Heat in the Eastern Conference.

"Given the severity of the injury, I didn't know if I'd be able to shoot effectively again, without pain, without discomfort," he said.

"Initially, when I first came out of my cast and saw I had zero range of motion, the doubts creep in and reality sets in, and you realize you have a long road ahead of you and whether or not you'll ever get back on top of the mountain is to be determined. But you know you're at the bottom at that point."

The climb has proven swift and efficient. Teammate Mike Miller, who had to regain his own stroke after preseason thumb injury, said Jones' rise to the All-Star contest is a remarkable achievement, considering how a wrist is everything to a shooter.

"Any time you mess with something, as a shooter, on your shooting hand, it's going to mentally and physically take a toll on you," Miller said. "He's just worked so hard. He deserves everything he gets."

And yet, the clock also is ticking. The loaner tendon apparently comes with an expiration date.

"It's one of those things, because of the bones that are in there, the way my bone structure is, eventually it'll probably be a deteriorating condition," Jones said. "Eventually, over time, the tendons are compromised."

Bookmark and Share
blog comments powered by Disqus